Sometimes you have to look deeper to see the message behind a work of art, even with 3D glasses. Modou Dieng and Devon VanHouten-Maldonado challenge viewers to find a more complex meaning from the works displayed in their exhibit “An Interactive Installation,” which will be open for viewing until March 16 in the Linfield Gallery.
Cristopher Moss, the Linfield Gallery director and curator, invited artists Dieng and VanHouten-Maldonado to campus. Their work features Senegalese and Mexican figures from the past and explores the way today’s digital revolution embodies history.
“I was excited to do a show that was more academic, meaning that I am not trying to sell a product,” Dieng said. “I am trying to sort of create a conversation and an idea.”
The artists encourage visitors to wear 3D glasses while viewing the art. The glasses enhance the colors of the artwork, but are mainly included as an opportunity to use modern-day tools to analyze ethnicity and cultural history.
Dieng and VanHouten-Maldonado hope to inspire onlookers to alter their preconceived ideas about history.
“Specifically to this show, I think what we’re interested in is pointing out how uncertain reality is,” VanHouten-Maldonado said. “The way that we understand history, and in particular we are talking about our own cultural history, is so skewed by the way that we manipulate information.”
Junior art major Alyssa Dykgraaf commended the artists’ inclusion of the glasses.
“I think the 3D glasses were incredibly innovative,” Dykgraaf said in an email. “I’ve never seen them integrated into a gallery show before.”
When considering Linfield’s attributes, cultural diversity is one of the first things that comes to mind.
Dieng is Senegalese and VanHouten-Maldonado has Mexican heritage, and both cultural backgrounds are significant influences on their pieces.
“We wanted to do a show that talked about stuff that was actually important to us. And most importantly it talks about our culture,” VanHouten-Maldonado said. “And knowing that Oregon is sort of an insulated place, I think we felt like it was important to talk about.”
VanHouten-Maldonado resides in Portland, where he continues to develop his relatively new artist career.
Despite his young age, he has exhibited a considerable amount of work, of which he concentrates on showing in atypical spaces and promoting community involvement.
He has contributed to important local projects, such as “These Prison Walls,” as well as international projects like “Global Studios” in Dakar, Senegal. VanHouten-Maldonado created an alternative workspace to harbor experimental exhibits called The Bunker.
Dieng also lives and works in Portland, and he has presented his work in major cities, such as Paris, Madrid, New York and Los Angeles.
He is originally from Senegal, where he acquired a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He holds a master’s in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and is an assistant professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He also founded a laboratory for creative experimentation in Portland.
Dieng uses his art to speak about larger issues, such as race, gender, social status and urban history. He uses mixed media, photography, painting and installation to create his work. He embraces today’s technology and uses it to fuel his art.
“I think we have to reinvent authenticity, and technology is creating a new conversation about what’s authentic and what’s not,” Dieng said. “It changes our perception of authenticity.”
Dieng and VanHouten-Maldonado painted their work on wallpaper-like material. When the exhibit closes, all of the pieces will be torn off the walls and ruined. As tragic as it may seem, it’s actually what the artists intended to happen. It contributes to the exhibit’s theme that all moments in history are fleeting.
“We should feel very honored to the small population of people who will get to see these wonderful images in person,” Dykgraaf said. “And that, in and of itself, should be enough to get every student into the gallery to view the art.”
Carrie Skuzeski/Culture Editor
Carrie Skuzeski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.